Capturing Customer Data: Why, and How?

Data capture is the act of collecting and managing information about your customers, clients or potential prospects. Companies capture data for several reasons, but most commonly as a way of understanding and segmenting their customer base and using this information to shape future marketing and business strategies.

People are often unwilling to give out their information, particularly if they feel that doing so will be time consuming or will result in them being inundated with unsolicited emails and calls. Despite this initial difficulty in gathering information, it is important to implement a customer data capture strategy as it provides knowledge which can help dramatically improve the future of your business.

Why should you capture data?

  • Identify and understand your customer demographic and use this awareness to inform marketing, promotional and business campaigns
  • Segment your customer base and offer targeted marketing and promotions to encourage loyalty and repeat purchase
  • Pinpoint demand and therefore establish new business opportunities

How to create a customer data strategy

  • Identify data capture opportunities

The first step to creating a data capture strategy is to understand customer point of contact which will allow opportunities to gather information. This is often the point of sale, where the customer has committed to buying a product or service and is carrying out the transaction. Adding in a data capture entry point to the POS system, for example by allowing customers to create or sign in to an account, is a good way of utilising an established contact point as it does not require much thought or time on the customer’s behalf.

  • Implement an IT system which can collect and record information

Paper records are a relatively inefficient way of gathering data, as it does not build up an overall picture of your customers unless input onto a single database. Using an IT system, such as a CRM, to collect this data is a simple way of storing and organising information to identify trends. An example of this is using an electronic loyalty card rather than a paper one, as it allows data to be stored on purchase behaviour.

  • Create a standard format for information entry points

Making customer data quantifiable is essential in order to analyse trends which will help to inform your business strategies. Best practise uses formats which only allow for a single value or answer to be selected, such as via the use of drop down menus. Unlike with free text fields, this ensures that there are no variations of the same answer, such as UK, Great Britain, and England. While these are all different interpretations of the same response, it can lead to skewed data and outliers which diminish the usefulness of the data gathered and make it difficult to analyse.

  • Offer an incentive to provide details

One of the easiest ways to collect data is to offer customers an incentive for providing it. This could be via a loyalty scheme, a one off discount or promotion code, or even by offering a resource such as a downloadable white paper or PDF.

  • Limit the amount of data asked for

Customers will quickly give up entering their data if the forms are lengthy or time consuming. Stick to around three entry points at any one time; this can be updated at different times and point of contacts to build up a more accurate overview of each customer.

  • Make it easy for customers to input their data

As well as having a standardised form, data capture forms should be easy to navigate and have a logical flow so that it is quick, simple and stress free for customers to enter their information.

  • Outline how their data will be used

It is imperative that complete customer consent is achieved prior to data entry; this can be done by fully outlining how and where their data will be used, such as how they will be contacted and whether or not their data will be sold on.

Data can be captured in several ways; online, via social media, through ePOS and POS systems and reward programmes are all viable ways of capturing data. If you plan to capture data across multiple channels, ensure that these use a unified management system to avoid duplicates or inconsistent data. Customer information can quickly become out of date so it is advised to have a strategy to gather up to date information on a regular basis, e.g. via a yearly e-mail with updated terms and conditions.

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